Tag Archives: Planned Giving

How Do You Raise Money If You Are Not Providing COVID 19-Related Services?

Raise Money If You Are Not Providing COVID 19-Related Services

Are you asking yourself how you can raise funds at a time of pandemic, economic dislocation, and social unrest when your organization’s mission is not related to any of those issues?

Many of our clients have been raising this concern with us in the past few months. Recently, Michael Jaffe facilitated a program for the staff of a national communal organization that recently utilized our executive search services. 

The goal was to get everyone in the room to answer the question:

“How do nonprofits raise money if you are not providing COVID 19-related services?” 

A question so many organizations face. And Mersky, Jaffe & Associates wants to help you answer. (Click here if you would like to talk to one of us about how we can provide a one-hour brainstorming session for your organization.)

What did this nonprofit learn about raising money if you are not providing COVID 19-related services?

  • Whether or not to relate your organization to current issues depends on the donor. 
  • Fundraisers must be sensitive to their donors as well as transparent, passionate, and sincere when making the case and asking for a commitment. 
  • It is critical, now more than ever, to stay in touch with donors by all and any means of communication that the donor employs. Another national organization, has made 30,000 phone calls to its donors since late March. Organizations should reach out to every donor in their data base in a prioritized, systematic way to create a caring community. The purpose of the call can be to check in, say thank you, and ask questions to engage donors.
  • Stewardship is essential. Everyone, including staff, is dealing with the effects of COVID 19 and the social unrest, but it is critical that staff relate to donors.
  • Virtual solicitations work. Utilize Zoom to engage donors. It is the best option now. Giving is as emotional as it is financial. People are giving, so do not be reluctant to solicit donors now.
  • Many people are looking at their estate plans. Now is a good time to focus on planned giving efforts.
  • Look at donors who give through Donor Advised Funds. They still have money to give away since it has already been set aside for this exact purpose.

Your organization has an important message.  Now is not the time to pull back on fundraising.  If you want to hold a motivating, inspiring program for your staff and/or volunteer leadership, email me or click here to set an appointment to talk about what Mersky, Jaffe & Associates can do for you and your mission.

Can Nonprofits Turn Previous Failures Into Future Success?

Can Nonprofits Turn Previous Failures Into Future Success?Listen to any conference speaker, self-help guru or tech entrepreneur and you are sure to hear about their failures. Of course, they are speaking because they turned their failures into lessons that helped them succeed. Can you imagine going to a funder and telling them that you had to close down your last nonprofit due to lack of money but this time you knew how to handle their 7-figure gift? Can nonprofits turn previous failures into future success? Of course, saying you have changed the way you run your organization is not enough.  You need to “walk the walk as well as talk the talk.”

  • Show that you now have a strong case for giving and are only approaching the right people at the right time.
  • Prove you have learned your lesson by talking about your new and detailed focus on acknowledgements.
  • Demonstrate that you understand stewardship for each and every donor and each and every gift.

What are other areas that nonprofits ignore that can be turned around to prove success?

To some this list may seem overwhelming. To others, it will highlight areas on which to focus or tweak in the coming year. Either way, turning previously missed opportunities into growth and prosperity will sustain your nonprofit. And, it will be something positive to talk about to current and prospective funders. Showing that you are learning and growing is something everyone can get excited about.   Please let us know if we can help you improve your nonprofit by emailing Abigail Harmon.

Set New Fundraising Goals for the Year? Make Sure You Have the Resources to Succeed

Resources for fundraising goalsIt’s a few weeks into the new year and, hopefully, you have set your new fundraising goals for the year.  And, if you intend to achieve those goals, we also hope that you have a fundraising plan with a stewardship calendar) in place. There is a reason for the adage, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

How did you set your fundraising goal?

Let’s talk about the reality of your situation.  Choose the letter that best describes your nonprofit’s fundraising goals for the year:

  1. I/we kept our fundraising goal the same as last year.
  2. I/we took the current budget and increased our fundraising goal by XX%.
  3. I/we looked at the budget shortfall and added that to the amount we raised last year to create our fundraising goal.
  4. I/we looked at what we raised last year, estimated we would have the same donor retention and new acquisition rates, and created our fundraising goal based on similar results.
  5. I/we looked at what we raised last year, estimated that we could implement a stewardship calendar that could help retain previous gifts while increasing our donor retention by 10% this year. We added an estimated amount based on those proportions to our fundraising goal.
  6. I/we looked at what we raised last year, estimated we could implement a stewardship calendar that could help increase our donor retention by 10% this year, determined we could hold three first-time donor events and three introduction emails to increase our first-time donor retention by 20%, and examine our lapsed donors above $1,000 for the past five years by looking at donors who could be reactivated. Then we established estimated increases for each category and added that to our fundraising goal.

The truth is, it is hard to get from A to F. It requires resources – human and financial. You cannot take the time to analyze your giving patterns, if you do not have someone to collect the data and analyze it. Even if you outsource the analysis – Mersky Jaffe & Associates can help you with this – you still need the resources to turn the findings into funding.

You will need resources for all aspects of your plan. Creating an overall stewardship calendar? You may want to send out additional snail mail letters. Creating a planned giving program? You might need collateral. Wondering how to deepen the engagement with first time donors? You might want to have coffee with the strongest prospects.  That all takes time and money.

Need it spelled out? Assuming you can increase the amount of money you raise this yea, without changing what you are doing, is a sure way to disappoint yourself, the executive director and board.

So, instead of considering what will not get done as a consequence of your new areas of focus, think about what resources you will need.  And ask for them. Could additional administrative help alleviate some stress? Do you need a new development professional? Is there a way to shift current under-utilized staff time to focus more on fundraising?

I know that budgets are tight and adding staff may not be high on your list of priorities. But you can’t raise more money without a plan on how to get there. Of course, it depends on how much you are hoping to raise. Trying to increase your numbers by $100,000 or more?  It may be time to increase your human resources. And know that the hire will more than pay for itself within a few years—even ten times over.

To quote another adage, “It takes money to raise money.” At least, that’s the adage as I remember it. 

Is it Worth Investing in Electronic Prospect Research Screening for Your Nonprofit?

Prospect ResearchWhen researching a prospective donor for an initial gift, or possibly an upgraded gift, many nonprofits stop and question, “Is it worth investing in electronic prospect research screening? Is it the path to the pot of gold? Or, is it too general to be helpful to your nonprofit (i.e. does it matter if they gave their medical school or a local women’s shelter if you are a religious organization?)”

Here are the Pros and Cons of Electronic Prospect Research Screening

The Pros:

  • Research is super fun for data geeks and sociologists alike. That’s because good donor research output will give you a snapshot of publicly available data that includes:
    • Previous giving history- how much have they given to others
    • Political giving –a strong indicator of their philanthropic mindset
    • Real estate estimates (they own how many houses????)
    • Business data (they are the CEO of what public company?)
    • SEC information including shares and market values of public transactions
    • Boards they may sit on
  • Previous giving history can help you adjust your expectations. Rarely, do donors jump from $1,000 to $100,000.
  • It can help you understand where passions lie. If they have donated to a local Food Insecurity Initiative, a local hospital and a local private K-12 school, they are probably like to give locally to organizations that build relationships or where they already have connections.
  • Understanding their political giving will help you deepen the picture of who they are and what they value. Do they donate to more Republican or Democrat causes? Town-focused, State-wide or National? Small amounts to individuals or large amounts to PACs?

The Cons:

  • All that data can be a rabbit hole that sucks hours of your day. And that’s just for one interesting person. Sometimes too much data is just too much.
  • Anecdotal information is not included. Anyone being considered for a major gift would, ideally, already be associated with your nonprofit. That means someone should know their connection point, recent conversations, and how they feel about your organization.
  • It is just data and doesn’t let you know if it is a personal gift. If they gave to a children’s hospital because they helped a family member, or they donate to the women’s shelter because their sister is on the board, that is a very different type of gift than general support because they think it is a good cause.
  • Common names skew results. Someone must go through each prospect and realize if it is the right Larry Smith or David Weinstein. One can probably give $1,000,000 and the other $1,000. That is a very different ask.
  • Just because they have the capacity and have given to your nonprofit, that doesn’t mean they want to give more. Of course, your job is to convince them otherwise, but be patient. 10 years of $50 gifts are still valuable to your nonprofit. And consecutive years of giving demonstrate loyalty the might lead to a bequest or other planned gift.

Is it worth investing in Electronic Prospect Research Screening?

In my opinion, yes. It will save you hours on Google getting basic information and some services (like DonorSearch) provide you with an impressive amount of detail about your prospects. But, like so many things in life, paying someone else to do the screening is in actuality buying you time to other aspects of fundraising and development.  Prospect research is not the end-all, be-all solution we would like it to be. But, it is an important step towards knowing your donors.

What Motivates Donors to Give by David A. Mersky

I got an email from a client earlier today.  He wrote:

I saw an article in the Washington Post yesterday. It discusses that, with the new tax law, many people will lose the deductibility of charitable contributions because they will become subject to the standard deduction. For individuals 70.5 and older who are subject to “required minimum distributions” from their retirement accounts, the article describes that charitable deductions can still be taken by directing the brokerage firm to contribute directly to a charitable entity.

I wonder whether we could send a letter to our donors who are 70+ telling them about this strategy, perhaps linking to an article, or providing specific language they can direct to their accountants or investment advisors.

Let me know what you think.

Do tax refunds motivate a donor to give?Well, I think that it is an interesting strategy.  And, you might want to consider sending such a letter, or if you are of an age to take required minimum distributions from ERISA-qualified funds—i.e., retirement accounts like 401 (k), profit-sharing, defined contribution pension plans, IRA Rollovers, and the like—then you might want to think about this for yourself.

But what about all the rest of the population who do not have such a benefit.  How do they “claw back” the value of a charitable gift deduction if they no longer can itemize their deductions?

The media—and most especially the press which reports about the nonprofit world—has been filled with hand-wringing articles about how contributions will go way down because of the unintended consequence of the increase in the standard deduction.

This contrarian is not going to pile on and issue another doom and gloom set of warnings in light of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017.  Instead let me share the data with you that describes the key factors driving donations.  We know that some people give to support the fundraising efforts of a family member, friend, or neighbor.  Others like to create a philanthropic image for themselves or their company.  Still others feel guilty saying no to someone expressing a need.  These reasons for giving often are understated and certainly under-reported in the research.

The 2016 US Trust Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy conducted in partnership with the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy looked at factors driving charitable giving among wealthy households.  This biennial study found that donors primary stated motivations for giving were much as they had always been.  They were as follows:

  • Believing in the mission of organizations (54%)
  • Believing that their gift can make a difference (44%)
  • Experiencing personal satisfaction, enjoyment, or fulfillment (39%)
  • Supporting the same causes annually (36%)
  • Giving back to the community (27%)
  • Adhering to religious beliefs (23%)

By the way, 18% of wealthy donors in the same study say they gave because of tax benefits which is a drop form 34% in the 2014 study.

Our firm’s prescription for our clients, particularly those who fear the impact of the new tax law, is to communicate effectively and genuinely with donors, express appreciation and let donors know what heroes they are.

In the weeks and months ahead, we are going to focus our efforts on helping clients consider what motivates donors to give and how to:

  • Acquire new, first time donors who believe in the cause
  • Tell their new donors that they really make a difference
  • Convey joy in the gift to the giver

If you want to be part of our new initiative, send me an email to set up a call.  In a 30 minute no obligation call, we can begin you down a path of growth in your donor community, upgraded gifts from your existing donors, enhanced retention of donors, and increased lifetime value of each one of your contributors.  Write directly to me by clicking here and we will help you focus your efforts on what motivates donors to give.

This Year’s Top 10 MJA Articles

This Year's Top 10 MJA ArticlesI am jumping on the December bandwagon and offering you this year’s top 10 MJA articles in an easy to read list. This is based on your readership, but we know that not everyone can read our blog/newsletter each week. If I missed one that you felt was valuable, please let me know and I’ll forward it along next week.  Happy Holidays.

  1. It’s That Time Again – Here Are 11 Annual Appeal Tips

  2. 4 Types of Bequests and Estate Gifts – Part 1 of Planned Giving Explained

  3. 3 Complicated Planned Gift Options Explained – Part 2 of Planned Giving Explained
  4. Behavioral Interview Questions for a Nonprofit Executive Search by David A. Mersky

  5. How Many Words Do You Need For A Fall Annual Appeal Letter? or any mail or email solicitation

  6. Be Thankful for the Gift and Move On

  7. Pareto’s Principle is No Longer the Standard in Fundraising

  8. Are You Incorporating these 9 Short-term Fundraising Goals into Your 2017 Plan? It might be too late for 2017, but it’s not to early for 2018.
  9. The Role of the Executive Director in Nonprofit Governance by David A. Mersky

  10. Lessons on Turning Around a Bad Experience at Your Nonprofit

If there are specific topics you would like to see addressed in 2018, please email me, by clicking here

3 Complicated Planned Gift Options Explained

We were, initially, hesitant to produce anything on planned gift options under the current President and his administration. Simply put, it seems that anything, including tax codes, can change on a daily basis. Please ask your donors to check with a financial advisor when considering these, or any types, of planned gifts.

That being said, we think it is important that your nonprofit move forward in any political climate and that includes should include offering your donors and prospects planned gift options.  You can read about Bequests and Estate Gifts by clicking here.

  1. Charitable Gift Annuities
    A charitable gift annuity is a contribution made to a nonprofit that can provide a donor with a secure source of income for life. When the donor gives a gift of money or securities as a charitable gift annuity, a payout rate is determined based on the age of the beneficiary at the time of the gift. The rate will remain constant for the life of the beneficiary(s).In other words, this gift creates an agreement that the nonprofit organization accepts a gift of cash or property now, and continually pays a predictable fixed-income payout for life.  What’s left of the gift after the beneficiary’s lifetime (or that of the assignee) will continue to support an organization for generations to come.
  2. Charitable Remainder Unitrust
    This gift is similar to the Charitable Gift Annuity in that it offers a way to make a meaningful donation that combines a charitable donation with predictable income during the donor or beneficiary’s lifetime. The securities are given to the nonprofit.  In this case, the nonprofit agrees to pay a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the annual determined value of the assets (unitrust).  This can be beneficial if you expect the asset to increase in value. After the donor’s death, the remaining balance in the trust is payable to the nonprofit.
  3. Charitable Lead Trusts
    Charitable lead trusts are a slightly different take on a Charitable Remainder Unitrust.  Instead of providing payments to a beneficiary and leaving the remainder of the asset to nonprofit, you would give the payments to nonprofit, leaving the asset(s) to your designated beneficiaries.  By taking the first, or lead, gift, nonprofit will help reduce estate taxes for those in a high bracket.

If you would like Mersky, Jaffe & Associates, nonprofit consultants, to help you initiate a planned giving program for your nonprofit, email us by clicking here





4 Types of Bequests and Estate Gifts

Planned Giving Explained

bequests and estate giftsWe receive a lot of questions about planned giving.  It is an element of fundraising that everyone knows they should be incorporating, but many organizations don’t know where to start. We would like to help. We are going to do a small series that will explain some of the intricacies, starting today with an explanation of bequests and estate gifts.

4 Types of Bequests and Estate Gifts

  1. Include a nonprofit in your will or living trust.  A simple way to support a nonprofit organization is by remembering them in a will.  It is quite easy to do.  If the person already has a living trust or will, simply ask an attorney to draft a codicil or amendment.  If they do not yet have a will or trust, they can contact a trusted attorney to help create this legal document. In general, bequests and estate gifts can be made as a:
    • Percentage bequest – make a gift of a percentage of your estate
    • Specific bequest – make a gift of a specific dollar amount or a specific asset
    • Residual bequest – make a gift from the balance or residue of your estate
    • Contingent Bequest – make a gift from your estate if the purpose of the primary bequest cannot be met.
  2. Provide support with your bank and brokerage accounts. A donor can provide a gift to a nonprofit directly from a bank account as part of an estate.  To do this, they should contact a broker or bank representative about making funds “payable upon death.”  It will require a “transfer on death” designation on an account so that the support will go directly to the organization.
  3. Name the nonprofit as a beneficiary of a retirement account. Designate the organization as a full, partial or contingent beneficiary of a retirement account (IRA, 401(k), 403(b) or pension). The beneficiaries of the retirement accounts will be taxed on any amount they receive. The nonprofit receives the full amount of the gift.
  4. Name the nonprofit as a beneficiary of a life insurance policy.
    Many people purchase life insurance to ensure financial stability should something happen. But as a family evolves, so do your needs for protection.  If a family situation has changed (e.g. your dependents have become independent), it may be worth it to consider including a nonprofit as a life insurance policy beneficiary. During the person’s lifetime, the ownership of this policy will not change.

Learn more about how Mersky, Jaffe & Associates can create a planned giving program for your nonprofit by clicking here

Learn more about clients MJA has helped by clicking here


Uncovering A Hidden Planned Gift

Prospect for a planned gift

by David A. Mersky

I recently participated in the solicitation of a rather peripherally involved 82-year-old donor of one of our clients.  We were going to ask for $100,000, when, before we could even begin, the donor said that he had already provided a $100,000 planned gift for the congregation in his estate plan.

My partner, a truly fearless, great volunteer, and I were delighted with this bit of news. Of course, we encouraged the donor to consider a current gift as well, but the experience reminded me that there are probably many others who have included this  seven hundred family suburban congregation in their estate planning.  I began to wonder, “How could we uncover more of these hidden gifts?”

They are not unique in this way.  There is good reason to believe that your organization may also have planned gifts that you do not know about.


Because, during the first half of the twenty-first century, we are experiencing the greatest transfer of wealth in our nation’s history.  Early estimates indicated that the transfer would be $41 trillion with as much as $12 trillion going to charity.  Today those numbers may be $136 trillion transfer with $25 trillion for charity.

A planned gift is not automatic

Dr. Russell James, a leading scholar of philanthropy and planned giving and chair of graduate studies in charitable planning at Texas Tech University, has said that if you think that the “generational transfer will automatically flood your organization with resources, it’s time to think again.  Without putting in the hard work of generating planned gifts, 90% of donor mortality will simply result in lost current giving.”

By uncovering hidden gifts that have already been thoughtfully planned for your organization and then stewarding those relationships, you begin the process of identifying prospects for current cultivation and allow the organization the opportunity to recognize future major gift intentions through an acknowledgements program.

In addition, you will learn why people care about your mission, vision, and values, what is their level of passion, do they have children, where you rank among their philanthropic priorities, do they want to give now, and how they would prefer to engage with you.  And, then with all this valuable data, you will be able to design a highly-individualized program that will lead to increased donor retention and new gifts of substantial value.

If you are interested in finding the hidden planned gifts to your organization that already exist as well as the prospects for ever increasing levels of major gifts, send me an email.



Successful Capital Campaigns Help With Planned Giving

David Mersky sqSuccessful capital campaigns not only raise money…but also help with planned giving

 The chair of the Board of a client organization recently paid me the supreme compliment. “Mersky simply will not take no for an answer when it comes to engaging and soliciting our donors. He will always find alternatives for me to consider.”

When the President of the American College of the Building Arts in Charleston, SC—reported this to me, I was beaming. Of course, what he was referring to was the ideal role of the solicitor—that of problem solver.

I had already conducted several solicitations with the chair of the Board and the College president. In one case, when a longtime supporter suggested that my request of a gift of $500,000 payable at $100,000 for each of the next five years, was “out of the question,” I began to probe to understand the source of the objection. It turned out that this extraordinarily generous and very wealthy octogenarian was beginning to contemplate large medical expenses and was afraid of outliving his resources. And, so, I began to explore alternative ways in which he could participate in the College’s capital and endowment campaign that would preserve is assets for family needs, but enable the College to recognize a substantial gift on its balance sheet that would be realized at some point in the future.

I outlined two different strategies—an irrevocable charitable remainder trust funded with a highly appreciated piece of real estate that was a non-income producing asset or a bequest to be realized upon the death of the second to die. In both cases, I suggested the creation of a wealth replacement trust to preserve the value of the assets for the donors’ heirs.

The outcome is not yet resolved—stay tuned. But, in either case the value of the gift to the College may now exceed $2,000,000. Successful capital campaigns help with planned giving and the more campaigns that we work on, them more we see the value of planned giving, which may account for 30% or more for a campaigns total achievement.

The power of planned giving—or what others call gift planning—is not only appropriate in the context of a capital campaign. In fact, planned giving should become one of the many arrows in your quiver with which to pierce the hearts of your prospective donors. Peoples’ eyes often glaze over when I begin to describe the details of these options. Then I have to explain that the tax benefits that apply to one prospect may not be available to another or the need for wealth replacement may only be required in some cases and not in others. Regardless, when seeking an ultimate gift—a donor’s largest single gift to your enterprise in his or her lifetime—these arcane vehicles may be of great value.

The key is that everyone is ultimately a philanthropist. The question is do your supporters want to be voluntary philanthropists in control of their own resources or do they want to be involuntary ones by having their children pay estate taxes in support of the government—federal and state. By developing a facility in planned giving you can help your donors as you achieve sustainability for your organization. That’s the real win-win.

NEXT MONTH: Financial Management